A TOUCH of Bohemian rhapsody entered Christie’s South Kensington’s January 25 ‘Interiors’ sale.
Included amongst the 600-plus lots of antique and decorative furnishings and paintings was a small group of mid-to late-19th century Bohemian glassware colourfully enamelled and gilded in Middle Eastern taste.
They had been divided into around 20 lots and included some small groups of hookah bases, but the majority were decanters with tall ringed necks and spire stoppers.
They had been entered from a private consignor and carried attractive there-to-be-sold estimates, which the auctioneers thought held little danger of seeing them left on the shelf and every chance of going a bit higher.
A bit higher, yes… but not to the extent of ten to 20 times their estimates, which was what routinely happened as three or four Middle Eastern bidders in the room, on the phone and the internet pursued them furiously.
The more colourful and obviously Middle Eastern oriented the decoration, the higher they went. Green grounds, ruby flashing, gilding, scrolls and flower heads were all sought out, topped by the 17¾in (45cm) high ruby flash pair shown here.
This duo, which were the last of the group to be offered and featured cut and hatched detailing, scrolling and floral enamels and gilding, were pursued to £22,000 against a £1000-1500 estimate.
Equally sought was the slightly taller green glass version which was cut, enamelled and gilt with similar motifs and estimated at £700- 1000. It finally went for £15,000.
The group of eight blue ground decanters and seven stoppers, also shown, got away at £9500 against a £700-1000 guide.
The buyers' focus appeared to be all on the decanters. The assorted hookah bases went in line with Christie's modest predictions. One group of four decorated in blue and floral motifs with gilt highlights realised a mid-estimate £900, while the other group of six similarly decorated got away just under their £800-1200 guide at £750.
Should similar material emerge for sale again, it will be interesting to see if it generates the same enthusiasm or whether this set of prices was something of a one-off.
Either way, Christie's specialist Emma Rainbird felt that the auctioneers would not be anticipating a dramatic upswing in value by adjusting their estimates.
The buyer's premium was 25/20/12%.